Nicholas Jones: Baftas, Globes and Oscars – they're all becoming alike

An extraordinary lobbying process now influences the shortlists

Share
Related Topics

Mulling over the nominees for this Sunday's British Academy Film Awards, a sudden thought hit me. Could a French movie now win the top prize of Best Film, as did Jean de Florette in the late 1980s – and several others in earlier years? I ask this, however, not as a lament for European cinema but as a reflection on how the Bafta voting process now operates.

I'm particularly interested to find which films and individuals collect the statuettes on Sunday because I'm a member of Bafta and so cast my votes each year, both to nominate films and choose the finalists in certain categories.

I also wonder what the public would make of the extraordinary lobbying process that has emerged in more recent years to help us make up our minds to vote for certain films. For it is this process which now increasingly influences what's on the shortlists.

Viewers watching on the night may guess that Bafta members simply recall a year's films, then put ticks against a long list and fire it off. In fact, in the 1990s, we did just that. But in 2002 the Film Awards were brought forward to February, to precede the Oscars. It was a smart move by Bafta, which has greatly raised its profile, helping it to fulfil its mission to promote the art forms of the moving image.

Yet it also set in train a process whereby the nominations and winners of Baftas and Oscars have increasingly converged. Last year, the two academies chose the same five nominees and winner for best picture. The same actors have won 11 out of 12 times in the last three years. This year, nominations in several key categories are remarkably similar, whether for Baftas, Golden Globes or Oscars.

I'm not sure anyone predicted this when Bafta changed its date. But once it did, Hollywood certainly took more interest in Bafta's awards – and also its members. Its fabled studios introduced us to their skills of gentle persuasion that have long been part of the Oscars.

The most tangible evidence of this is the "screener" – Hollywood lingo for a copy of a film which is seen as a possible award winner. Now, each December, Bafta members get sent around 60 such DVDs, in the hope they'll watch the film – and vote for it. The first protocol of voting is that one must have seen the film.

Sometimes, distributors have taken intriguing steps to get noticed. One year, I got invited to a Vermeer Exhibition. To my daughter's delight, one of the Harry Potter films came in a little pirate's chest. Members will be invited to special screenings to see a film, sometimes with top actors taking a Q&A, and even to certain premiers.

It would seem this hard sell of certain movies to the membership works. Studying this year's 35 nominated films, I got screeners for 33. (I exclude the categories of short films and British "Outstanding Debut"). But well over 200 films are eligible for Bafta awards, on the premise that they have been shown in British cinemas in the last year. Isn't it frankly unfair that this lobbying process is now clearly necessary to progress in the awards?

I would certainly think so had I worked on Eden Lake, a 2008 British horror film that won superb reviews. I expected it to win Bafta nominations but no screener was sent out, suggesting it was never seen as an "award film".

An invitation to a premier is possible because films that get nominated are often released during the "awards season", the term for the run-up to the Bafta and Oscar nights. Witness the winter release dates of Avatar, Precious and Up in the Air, three of the Best Film nominees in both Baftas and Oscars.

Film distributors assume that the voters have short memories – and release strong potential contenders at just the right time, both here and in the USA. That, plus their heavy promotion to both Bafta and Oscar voters, must explain why the same, mostly American, films now dominate the key award nominations, bar the specific British or Foreign categories.

Thinking back to Jean de Florette, it's hard to imagine a French movie could now win a Bafta for Best Film, given how the awards process has evolved. To be fair, European films now have far less exposure anyway in UK cinemas than they did in the 1980s.

That's a huge shame, but I must confess I find the Bafta Film Awards a far more interesting study now that they precede the Oscars. I'm also glad they fall when they do. Today's tired Yuletide telly gives me every incentive to watch the screeners.

Finally, my hunch for Best Film? Avatar: only rarely does a movie take film in a new direction.

The writer is creative director of Quanta Films

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat